Step One: Google "famous mathematicians"
Step Two: Count how many men will be named before the first woman
Step Three: Did you get more than 15 men listed before one woman? I did!
Isn't it crazy to think that a stereotype that originated before the 1800's is still lingering in our culture today? It's not as prevalent as it was back then, but there is no question that it still thrives in our world today. This stereotype says that women just aren't intelligent enough to learn/advance mathematics or in other words, a man's brain is just a better fit for mathematics. If you don't believe this is still alive in our society today, walk into any higher level math class at a university or just look up the guy to girl ratio at Michigan Tech. If I still don't have your attention, check out these statistics from the National Girls Collaborative Project,
Do I have your attention now?
I'm not writing this post to point fingers at men in mathematics nor am I writing to place the blame of these stereotypes on anyone. I am writing this post to simply express my thoughts on why this still exists and how we can move forward to diminish what still exists in our mathematics classrooms.
Here are my thoughts as to why this is still an issue:
What's the solution?
Unfortunately, I don't believe there is simple fix to this problem. But I do believe we can take steps in the right direction by being less focused on men and more equally focused on women in mathematics. What do I mean by that statement? I didn't learn about women in mathematics until I came to college... 12 years of schooling before hearing of famous women in math. That's a problem.
Let's look at Sophie Germain for a moment:
Despite the barriers that society put in front of her and even her own parents trying to prevent her from studying... she won the Prix Bordin award, proved Fermat's Last Theorem, and advanced mathematical knowledge on number theory.
Women who made their mark in mathematics history should be credited way more than they are because they had to work ten times hard than anyone else just get people to look at or let alone value their work.
Imagine if girls in 7th grade heard about this during math class? A woman excelling in mathematics against all odds and overcoming all barriers. I believe that opening the minds of young people to the history of both men and women in mathematics, allowing equality to flow through math lessons, and empowering our young women in mathematics could be revolutionary for change.
a s p i r e t o i n s p i r e
A great resource for displaying current women in mathematics and the STEM field is through NASA's aspire to inspire website and youtube videos. Watch the video above or click on the bottom below to learn more about this resource.
In closing, I hope my opinion has empowered you to empower your female students. Women are just as capable in the mathematics field as anyone else and if you didn't know that before, you should know it now! Don't wait to make a change, start teaching about women now so can change can happen today.
Let's start TODAY. Make a change TODAY. Empower women TODAY.